891.24/408: Telegram

The Minister in Iran ( Dreyfus ) to the Secretary of State

310. My 272, March 15, and 295, March 20. Kuniholm and Vivian have arrived in Tehran. As indicated in my 299, March 21, Kuniholm denies remarks attributed to him in February 12 conversation with Governor General in which he served, at request of all parties, merely as interpreter. He admits having interpreted a statement made by Vivian that fulfillment of Iranian Soviet cereals contract would result in food shortage in Tabriz a contention which has been borne out by developments. Both Kuniholm and Vivian report that Soviet Consul General at Tabriz has been unfriendly, rude and uncooperative. He was especially intransigent in matter of wheat.

Vivian was expelled from Tabriz by Soviets who gave him 24 hours to depart on grounds that his permit had expired. This action was not only abrogation of Iranian sovereignty but was also based on false grounds since permit referred to is a mere laissez passer to travel to Tabriz and not in any sense a residence permit. Vivian denies categorically having made remarks attributed to him either to persons53a or any one else. He is conferring with Sheridan and Prime Minister after which he expects to request Soviet permit to return to Tabriz. This will almost certainly be refused. Judging from my conversations with Kuniholm and Sheridan and from Vivian’s various reports [Page 348] I am convinced Vivian has done a heroic job for Iran against hopeless odds. He was sacrificed by the Soviet authorities in collusion with the Governor General because former insisted on their pound of flesh in form of the fulfillment of the Soviet Iranian cereals contract and because latter deeply resented Vivian’s titanic endeavor to make the Iranian landlords disgorge their hoarded wheat.

Governor General in addition to being allegedly corrupt and subservient to Soviets is one of Azerbaijan’s largest land owners. Vivian has been able to deliver to date only 1500 [tons] of the 5000 of wheat and 3000 tons of the 15000 of barley due Soviets under contract and he contends that to deliver remainder will cause severe shortage in Tabriz.

Complaint made by Soviet Government seems to me to be based on Soviet resentment of foreign influence in Azerbaijan. This resentment is evident also in unreasonable Soviet objection to General Connolly’s request to establish stations for truck service in Soviet zone (see my No. 295) I am sure both Kuniholm and Vivian were merely endeavoring to do a good job under difficult circumstances and that neither has indulged in anti-Soviet activities.

Soviet attitude toward Kuniholm is explained to some extent by following remark made to me by Soviet Ambassador “Kuniholm’s difficulties in Tabriz probably arise from fact that he is a Finn”.

While Kuniholm has Soviet return permit for Tabriz and is willing to go back he points out that his return would be embarrassing for him and might result in reprisals and bodily harm to his Iranian friends. For example mayor of Tabriz was severely beaten and imprisoned by Governor General and his henchmen as a result of his visit to Kuniholm to seek protection, a matter which is today being placed before the Prime Minister. Department is requested to inform me whether it wishes to have Kuniholm return to Tabriz in order not to be placed in position of acceding to unjustified Soviet complaint. If Department believes Kuniholm’s return would not be wise he could be assigned temporarily to Tehran and Ebling54 could proceed to Tabriz in accordance with procedure already suggested by Near Eastern Division. In latter event, since it is understood Kuniholm has been promised home leave this year and considering the great delay in travel to Iran Department is requested to assign at once an officer to replace Ebling.

Reports of Kuniholm and Vivian will be sent airmail.

  1. Presumably the persons mentioned in telegram No. 241, March 8, from the Chargé in the Soviet Union, p. 337.
  2. Samuel G. Ebling, Second Secretary of Legation in Iran.